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tionate t o the size of the problem.

a n d Annie S h e k h a r ' s c o n t e n t i o n t h a t the private sectors, euphemistically described


With regard to utilisation of T B beds G T B Hospital authorities are deliberately as the middle class, c o m p r i s i n g less than
in the G T B H o s p i t a l it h a s not signi- refusing admission to needy patients, etc, ten per cent of the total w o r k f o r c e in this
ficantly changed in the last one decade the a r g u m e n t that hospitalisation has c o u n t r y has succeeded in cornering the
(Table 3). declined, h o l d s n o water at all. m a j o r concessions a n d incentives offered
It is clear f r o m table 3 t h a t the n u m b e r W h o c a n d i s p u t e the need for a n oc- by the government for h o u s i n g a n d con-
of patients using each bed of the G T B cupational diseases research centre in tinues to exert pressure for larger benefits.
Hospital a n d the average stay of the B o m b a y ? T h e r e is n o denying t h e There are, on the supply side, a h a n d f u l
patient in the hospital has n o t shown any thousands of pneumoconiosis cases which of local leaders with political connections,
radical c h a n g e since 1975. are passed off as T B cases. T h e collusion land owners a n d private builders in every
M o r e t h a n 13 patients of 100 admitted between the government a n d the indus- city w h o have discoverd a n extremely
in G T B H o s p i t a l , die. O n e - f i f t h of all trialists in keeping a veil over the occupa- lucrative i n d u s t r y ' in land speculation.
registered deaths due to T B in Bombay are tional diseases is glaring. But does this T h e large m a j o r i t y of a g r i c u l t u r a l
in G T B Hospital. C a n it be said then that mean that such a centre should be started labourers and those in the unorganised
the needy a n d serious T B patients are not at the cost of beds for T B patients? sector, on the other land, assign a low
seeking h o s p i t a l i s a t i o n in the G T B It would be quite a n o t h e r matter If the, priority to the housing problem, which in-
Hospital? Or, is the registration of T B M C G B were p l a n n i n g to decentralise the deed is considered by them as a small and
deaths o u t s i d e the hospital so b a d that T B bed strength by building T B hospitals secondary evil.
hospital d e a t h s figures are getting in- in all suburbs a n d by attaching an occupa- It is interesting that while arguments for
flated? O n b o t h the c o u n t s the p e r f o r - tional diseases diagnostic centre to each boosting the housing activities are set
m a n c e of M C G B in- domiciliary treat- one. N o d o u b t , c o n c e n t r a t i n g two-thirds forth in t e r m s of the needs of the poor,
ment, i n f o r m a t i o n collection a n d pro- of all T B beds in B o m b a y in the G T B the concessions and incentives invariably
viding better hospital care t u r n s out to be Hospital at Sewree is an irrational public turn out to be those favouring the so-
poor. health policy. But to r e d u c e the total called middle class, comprising largely the
Further, if we take into account the long n u m b e r of T B beds in B o m b a y a m o u n t s petty bourgeoisie. It is also true that the
waiting list of patients seeking hospitalisa- to c o m p o u n d i n g one irrationality with present interest a m o n g the elites for im-
tion a n d the Municipal M a z d o o r Union another. proving the living c o n d i t i o n s of the poor
is rooted in their concern for the general
health, physical and social environment in
Does National Housing Policy Answer the cities as a whole. It is believed that
slums and shanty settlements, besides be-
'the Housing Question'? ing the breeding places of epidemics, also
shelter a large n u m b e r of anti-social per-
sons and activities a n d are responsible for
Amitabh Kundu
the deterioration of law a n d order situa-
tion and o u t b r e a k of riots. T h o u g h the
While all the arguments for boosting housing activities are set validity of such postulates remains to be
forth in terms of the needs of the poor; all the benefit invariably scientifically established, these gaining
favour the so-called middle-class, largely the petty bourgeoisie. currency a m o n g the elite class which may
explain its ' p h i l a n t h r o p i c solicitude' for
A B O U T one h u n d r e d a n d twenty years rages in its (capitalists) r a n k s as ruthles- the health of the poor.
ago Friedrich Engels wrote that " t h e so- sly as in the ranks of the workers. As soon A l t h o u g h Engels had perceived petty
called h o u s i n g shortage" in our m o d e r n as this fact is scientifically established, the bourgeois a n d big b o u r g e o i s interest
big cities is o n e of the " i n n u m e r a b l e philanthropic bourgeois b e c a m e i n f l a m - behind the 'housing lobby in the then Ger-
smaller a n d s e c o n d a r y evils which results ed with a noble spirit of competition in many, England and France, he was aware
f r o m the present day capitalist m o d e of their solicitude for the health of their that high rentals hit the p o o r harder than
production". Reacting sharply to a series workers!' the rich. H e noted with concern that "the
of articles a p p e a r i n g o n t h e subject of The above observations are extremely expansion of big m o d e r n cities gives the
'Housing in Volksstaat' (people's state), in relevant in u n d e r s t a n d i n g t h e nature and l a n d . . . particularly in . . . centrally
a German radical newspaper, Engels came class composition of the housing lobby in situated (areas), an artificial a n d often
up with three essays that were subsequent- -India and several other less developed enormously increasing v a l u e . . . the result
ly reprinted in a volume entitled Zur countries. Recently, the ministry of urban is that the workers are forced out of the
Wohnungsfrage (The H o u s i n g Question) development, has introduced two i m p o r - towns towards the outskirts". H e argued
in 1887. Engels argued f u r t h e r that hous- tant d o c u m e n t s for the approval of the f u r t h e r that the demolition of working
ing in m o d e r n societies is n o t a problem parliament, viz, the National Housing class t e n e m e n t s is often occasioned by
of the workers in particular. It is o n e Policy ( N H P ) a n d Delhi Rent C o n t r o l consideration of "public health and
which the w o r k i n g class shares with other ( A m e n d m e n t ) Bill. These have been beautification or d e m a n d s of centrally
classes, particularly the petty bourgeoisie. prepared, we are informed by the ministry, located business premises by t r a f f i c re-
It is, therefore, not very surprising that on the basis of the wisdom and recom- quirements". But n o matter how "different
npost of the petty bourgeois states prefer mendations of the committee of petitions, the reasons m a y be, the result everytime
to 'occupy themselves' with this or related economic administrative reform c o m m i t - is the same. T h e most s c a n d a l o u s alleys
problems. There is a n elitist interest as well tee, c o m m i t t e e of secretaries a n d the na- and lanes (of the p o o r ) d i s a p p e a r to the
behind the s t r o n g housing lobby. Engels tional c o m m i s s i o n on u r b a n i s a t i o n . T h e accompaniment of lavish self-glorification
observed t h a t the " p o o r districts" within concerted e f f o r t in the u r b a n land a n d by the bourgeoisie."
which the workers are crowded together housing field, as a p p a r e n t f r o m the set- It is indeed t r u e that the housing situa-
h a p p e n to be " t h e breeding places of all ting u p of several high power committees tion for the p o o r has b e c o m e extremely
epidemics which f r o m time to time afflict by the government reveals that strong critical in India in recent years. Despite
o u r t o w n s . . . H e r f r t h e g e r m s hardly ever vested interests are active here. T h e the claims of impressive p e r f o r m a n c e in
die out c o m p l e t e l y . . . the angel of death organised working class in the public a n d the housing sector in the N H P document,
1997
Economic and Political Weekly September .24, 1988
the percentage of houseless p o p u l a t i o n Engels had emphasised again and again paid to commercial viability a n d timely
has gone u p d u r i n g the sixties a n d seven- that the h o u s i n g problem arises basically recovery of loans". Unless the distribu-
ties as per t h e p o p u l a t i o n census esti- because of m a l d i s t r i b u t i o n of existing tional aspects are built i n t o the housing
mates. Micro-level studies indicate that the dwelling units a m o n g people. H e believed strategy, these laudable objectives would
p o p u l a t i o n living in slums, shanties a n d that "there is already a sufficient quantity remain as n o t h i n g m o r e t h a n mere
pavements in metropolitan a n d other large of houses in big cities to remedy all real slogans.
cities is growing at a much faster rate than housing shortage* provided they are used In discussing the solutions, Engels
their total p o p u l a t i o n . T h e r e is a distinct judiciously!' Studies o n l a n d utilisation disagreed with the scholars w h o believed
process of 'degenerated peripheralisation' pattern bring out quite clearly that large giving in " s e r m o n s to the capitalists" or
which pushes the p o o r out of the central chunks of vacant and underutilised land appealing to their "sense of justice" for
parts of the cities into the peripheries a n d are available even within the metropolitan getting houses built for the working class.
neighbouring towns a n d villages. This is cities that c a n easily a c c o m m o d a t e the H e argued that "there is no room for sen-
achieved through both the market mecha- present houseless p o p u l a t i o n , pavement timents in money matters" and, therefore,
nism as well as the g o v e r n m e n t p r o g r a m - dwellers and even more. P o p u l a t i o n cen- any hope to' solve the housing crisis
mes of resettlement under which sites and sus reveals that the p r o p o r t i o n of vacant through industrialists would be a delu-
services are provided for the p o o r at houses has been increasing alarmingly, sion. Bourgeois philanthropy knows that
respectable distances f r o m . the posh specially in large cities. All of this tends factory housing can be used as an instru-
localities. to support the contention of Engels that ment to control the working class and
The responsibility of shifting to the the housing problem is basically not one consequently its interest in sheltering the
peripheries a n d living u n d e r i n h u m a n of increasing the stock of dwelling units workers is extremely p r a g m a t i c and
conditions, was, however, placed at the but their distribution. limited. The society, he argued, is governed
doorsteps of the p o o r by the philosopher T h e N H P , on the o t h e r hand, has by economic laws and if these run con-
Proudhon and his followers like Emil Sax, focused primarily on issues relating to trary to anyone's sense of justice, the situa-
of w h o m Engels was highly critical. total supply. It has m a d e a strong case for tion cannot be remedied by a "pious wish"
Engels had argued that d r u n k e n n e s s and "reviewing and modifying entire gamut of or exhortations to the capitalist class. "If
other social evils among the poor working legal provisions that inhibit housing in- toads had tails they would no longer be
class was a necessary product of their liv- dustry", while Engels had noted that "in toads."
ing conditions a n d could not be changed England building legislation is reduced to T h e N H P too has expressed a "pious
through exhortations. He also pointed out a minimum, the building trades arc as free wish" that the economically weaker
that the habit of wasteful expenditure for as the birds in the air; nevertheless, the families must have a m i n i m u m plot size
'idle pleasures 1 was not restricted to the housing shortage exists". T h e N H P would and certain basic amenities. It hopes I hat
p o o r since it was well k n o w n that " t h e like to accelerate the t e m p o of housing luxury housing would be curbed by tinker-
c o m m o n p e o p l e go to the pubs and the activity by creating a specialised housing ing the ceilings for financial assistance and
p : o p l e of quality go to clubs". finance system with "a widespread perhaps moral appeals to the builders. Ii
P r o u d h o n i s t philosophy has, however, resource mobilisation strategy". Private in- recommends conferring tenurial rights on
survived now over one h u n d r e d years. An vestment has been sought to be increased slum dwellers, improving residential en-
almost uncritical acceptance of his view- by making urban land and housing vironment for the poor, etc, while insisting
point can be seen in the writings of several market function freely and efficiently. The on " a f f o r d a b l e credit" and "switch over
eminent sociologists, economists and ur- N H P recommends various other measures f r o m subsidy to loan".
ban planners of today,'who argue that the to increase the supply of serviced land. The N H P claims to envisage a " m a j o r
p o o r save on rent by moving into ' ' d a r k , But it does not bring in the distributional role" for the government as a facilitator
d a m p and i n a d e q u a t e dwellings" a n d considerations to determine the thrust of and encourages cooperatives and non-
s o m e t i m e s d i s t a n t localities d u e to the policy. governmental organisations in the housing
ignorance a n d short-sightedness, a n d T h e N H P indeed talks of "shelter for scene. The only point it d o e s not state ex-
" s q u a n d e r their income in truly fashion the houseless' 1 , "equitable distribution of plicitly anywhere in the d o c u m e n t is the
o n drink and all sorts of idle pleasures" land", "access of the poor t o institutional i m p o r t a n c e to be assigned to the private
(Emil Sax). finance", etc. But it makes n o attempt to builders and housing companies, although
It is within this perspective that the indicate how these objectives would be almost all its r e c o m m e n d a t i o n s are likely
World Bank a n d the ministry of urban achieved t h r o u g h a government acting to p r o m o t e their growth. Instead of ad-
development have organised a n u m b e r of only as a facilitator in the housing scene; mitting unhesitatingly that henceforth the
seminars over the past c o u p l e of years on nor does it spell out the role of private responsibility of h o u s e c o n s t r u c t i o n
the t h e m e of generating saving f r o m the sector for this purpose. It d o e s not men- would be passed on almost totally to the
i n f o r m a l settlements a n d the N H P has tion how the scheduled caste/tribe, freed private entrepreneurs, the N H P only notes
pleaded for the p r o m o t i o n of saving b o n d e d l a b o u r and other socially and that "housing agencies a n d area develop-
schemes for the people in these settle- economically vulnerable sections of popu- ment authorities in the public sector will
ments. This, it is argued, would increase lation can be assured of the m i n i m u m ac- be r e o r i e n t e d " and they would gradully
the investible resources in the country and c o m m o d a t i o n , to meet the objective of cease to be builders of h o u s i n g units. In
at the s a m e time, help in creating a n shelter for the homeless, w h e n the public the absence of a p p r o p r i a t e institutional
organisational base for improvement and sector agencies are expected to withdraw controls a n d incentives, it would be naive
upgradation schemes of slums to be laun- f r o m house-building activity. How would to expect that the private individuals and
ched t h r o u g h "self-help a n d c o m m u n i t y an equitable distribution of land be companies would start building for the
approach". It is indeed ironical that achieved if t h e g o v e r n m e n t is c o n t e m - poor. Engels had warned quite clearly that
serious a r g u m e n t s to boost u p the na- plating relaxation in the U r b a n Land Ceil- " t h e building industry which is offered a
tional savings rate by reducing the con- ing (and Regulation) Act and thereby have much better field for speculation by more
sumption of t h e p o o r should be advanced very little land at its disposal? By what expensive dwelling units, b u i l d s workers
in the early eighties—a p e r i o d which saw arrangement would an access of the p o o r dwelling only by way of exception". N o
a p h e n o m e n a l growth of c o n s p i c u o u s to institutional finance be ensured if the a p p e a l to the "conception of r i g h t " or
c o n s u m p t i o n a m o n g t h e rich a n d near National Housing Bank has to function " d e m a n d s of justice 1 ' w o u l d m a k e the
stagnation in the income levels of the strictly within the Reserve Bank of India capitalist class go against the e c o n o m i c
poor. framework with "special attention being laws.

1998 Economic and Political Weekly September .24, 1988